Facebook for queer folk? Check it out! On one hand, there are people from the LGBTQIA+ community who are bringing in change and transformation, on the other hand, a large portion of the community is still ignored and forced into unhealthy opportunities to earn a livelihood. Addressing these issues is a comprehensive networking platform called The Pridebook, which aims to provide a safe environment for the community to connect, network, socialise and flourish.
The platform is open to anyone — not just LGBTQ people — in India as well as across the world. Although The Pridebook primarily caters to the queer community, it is not restricted to them alone. Currently, the platform is in the alpha testing phase and is available in over 40 international languages and intends to add all major Indian languages very soon. The platform intends to have a host of engaging features like live chat, group chat, community groups, video/audio sharing, vocational training opportunities etc. shortly, along with credible partnerships with organisations such as the Solidarity Foundation.
Formed in September 2018, The Pridebook is headquartered in Bengaluru and its long term goal is to bring the community closer to mainstream society following the striking down of section 377. “The Pridebook aims to be a comprehensive networking platform where the LGBTQ community can connect, interact with the global community, seek counsel, explore job opportunities, and much more — just like they do on Facebook. The main objective is to promote openness and acceptance for the LGBTQ community and to make our society more inclusive of them,” says Anoop Murali, one of the co-founders of the platform.
Inclusivity is the key: Formed in September 2018, The Pridebook is headquartered in Bengaluru and its long term goal is to bring the community closer to mainstream society following the striking down of section 377
Childhood friends Anoop and Chandan Das — who own and manage Teknode Infosystems, a Bengaluru-based IT services company which is into GPS-based vehicle tracking and IOT solutions — grew up observing several instances of cruel and unsavoury treatment being meted out to the transgender community in particular. They often discussed the need for a safe space where the community is accepted and provides them with suitable job prospects and counselling to help them lead better lives. After the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the duo had an idea. After numerous rounds of consultation with the LGBTQ community and support from transgender-activist Akkai Padmashali and academician Dr Ali Khwaja, The Pridebook was finally born.
The platform will also have an exclusive section for corporates to post job openings and is pushing for tie-ups with corporates that would be willing to adopt this as a part of their CSR. In addition, there will be sections to help people find vocational training organisations that will help them become suitably employable. “The community will also have support groups that will provide referrals. Career counselling also is being looked at to identify their natural skills to guide them to reach satisfying work environments,” says Anoop.
The platform is dedicated to being a safe and inclusive space for all. Hence, there is a team dedicated to monitoring the content and also there are parameters on objectionable content like obscenity, nudity, etc. The beta version of the platform will also include other safety features
Anoop Murali, Co-founder, Pridebook
Commenting on the scenario in our country after Section 377 was struck down, Anoop says, “Things are a little better than in the past for the LGBTQ community, but of course, there is a long way to go from here. The most visible change, perhaps, is evident in our films and TV shows. In contrast to the past, where the LGBTQ community was mostly ridiculed or shamed on screen, there is a good amount of Indian content depicting them with sensitivity and class. This helps to widen the general perspective of our society and also foster acceptance for the community.”
So how does it work? It is quite simple. The process of signing up as a member starts with registering on the site using your email ID and a mail is automatically sent to that email ID, post which the person has to log in from the email ID and further fill out mandatory fields to proceed to his/ her/ their account creation. Therefore, the first level of verification would be email verification. “Other multi-factor authentication criteria are being finalised for the beta version of the platform,” adds Anoop.
Given the fact that cybercrime is only increasing, how is this platform a safe place for such a sensitive community of people? Anoop explains, “The platform is dedicated to being a safe and inclusive space for all. Hence, there is a team dedicated to monitoring the content and also there are parameters on objectionable content like obscenity, nudity, etc. The beta version of the platform will also include other safety features.”
‘The government has not been proactive in acting on the SC direction’
Transgender activist Akkai Padamshali gets talking about life after Section 377 was struck down, why The Pridebook is what queer people have needed for ages and much more. Excerpts:
After the landmark SC judgment on Section 377, have things improved for the community?
We have seen two huge judgments – the 2014 NALSA verdict and the landmark judgment of 2018, which is noteworthy even on a global level. However, these judgments have been on a statutory level. The implementation of these verdicts is still lacking. Hence, I cannot say that there is much improvement. We find the government is still not progressive in their thinking or proactive in implementing the 2014 verdict in favour of the transgender community. If we revisit the case of Section 377 in 2013, we can see the opposition was made by the current ruling government. The question, in this stage, still boils down to how the government is playing a responsible role in implementing these verdicts. There are three main aspects to this – the constitutional morality, religious morality and public morality. Currently, all these three aspects contradict each other. Speaking as a part of the community, as an activist and as a petitioner of Section 377, I strongly feel that the scenario can be improved much more, and a positive change can be seen if steps are taken, keeping the commission and welfare of the sexual minorities and the transgender community as the priority.
How do you think The Pridebook is creating a safe space and more acceptance for the community with their platform?
All platforms, forums, and mediums that cater to our community be it offline or online are important for us. The Pridebook, as its name suggests, is also a part of the pride. I strongly believe that all such platforms will help in furthering our cause, by dispelling the discrimination and promoting inclusivity for our community. These platforms have a responsibility to cater to all sections of our community and not just the elite.
Even with welfare groups and other platforms, still, a large portion of the community is ignored and forced into unhealthy opportunities to earn a livelihood, why do you think it is like that in the 21st century? How can we make it better?
The whole world needs to come forward and understand the issues of our community – the onus of making things better lies with us all. The leadership of our country, irrespective of political parties and ideologies, need to have a vision of inclusion that trickles down into the society. This will create opportunities for our community, for those who want to get out of sex work and begging. There will be no force anymore. But for that, there need to be opportunities. However, the government’s approach towards us is still undemocratic and conservative. I urge and demand the implementation of the verdicts and that the government becomes LGBTQ friendly. Only then can we be progressive for the century that we are in.